In a fast-moving world, indie authors often have more in common with the tech community than we do with traditional publishing. In today’s interview, Jarie Bolander explains some of the realities of being an author-entrepreneur and we discuss the ethical side of creative entrepreneurship.
In my personal update, I share my thoughts from a book research trip to Amsterdam – photos on Instagram @jfpennauthor; plus why indies are a global ‘scenius’ [Kevin Kelly]; plus check out the great interview with Neil Gaiman and Tim Ferriss.
Today’s show is sponsored by IngramSpark, who I use to print and distribute my print-on-demand books to 39,000 retailers including independent bookstores, schools and universities, libraries and more. It’s your content – do more with it through IngramSpark.com.
Jarie Bolander is a Design Engineer, entrepreneur, author, and podcaster. Today, we’re talking about his book The Entrepreneur Ethos: How to Build a More Ethical, Inclusive, and Resilient Entrepreneur Community.
- Why entrepreneurs need to be uncomfortable
- On questions received from entrepreneurs about getting through tough times
- Raising the level of integrity in the indie author community. Check out the Ethical Author guidelines at the Alliance of Independent Authors.
- The value of disruption and if Amazon has disruption in its future. You can read an article about surveillance capitalism on Fast Company here. And The New York Times on A Better Way to Break Up Big Tech.
- The anger that causes disruption
You can find Jarie Bolander at thedailymba.com and on Twitter @thedailymba
Transcript of Interview with Jarie Bolander
Joanna: Hi, everyone. I’m Joanna Penn from thecreativepenn.com, and today I’m here with Jarie Bolander. Hi, Jarie.
Jarie: Hi, Joanna. How’s it going?
Joanna: It is good. Thanks for coming on the show. Just a little introduction.
Jarie is a Design Engineer, entrepreneur, author, and podcaster. Today, we’re talking about his book ‘The Entrepreneur Ethos: How to Build a More Ethical, Inclusive, and Resilient Entrepreneur Community,’ which is something we all care about. So let’s dive straight in.
Jarie you say in the book, ‘Not everyone can or should be an entrepreneur.” What are the traits of those who do make it?
Jarie: That’s a great question. I wrote a whole book about it, ‘The Entrepreneur Ethos,’ but if I think about it, and I kind of whittle it down to a couple of things that I think are the most important, the first is being comfortable with being uncomfortable.
A lot of the entrepreneur journey is unknown. You just don’t know if what you’re building, what business you’re working on, even as an author. Sometimes, are people going like what I write? And whether or not authors like it or not, they are entrepreneurs as well. They actually have the exact same stresses. There’s the exact same issues and challenges that entrepreneurs have.
So I think it’s really important to be really uncomfortable. In really uncomfortable situations that you’re comfortable zigging and zagging your way through it, that is, I think, one of the most important things in what I found in my journey as an entrepreneur.
And then the second one sounds a little cliche, but I like it and it works, and it’s really enjoying the process and the journey. As an entrepreneur, this is a hard job. The success is fleeting, and hardly ever happens.
If you look at massively successful companies, they’re, what, 1% of all companies. So the odds are pretty low. It’s probably similar odds to being a best selling author, I haven’t quite figured that out yet, but it’s pretty low. So if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing I think it’s going to be a challenge.
Really, it’s important to have a sense of, ‘Things are going to go wrong. I need to be okay with that. I need to be able to zig and zag and figure out what I’m going to do.’ And then you know what? You may never get to the end game. You may never get to the promised land, but if you’re enjoying the journey along the way, then that’s the reward.
Joanna: I agree with you. I am encouraged by the fact that, as you say, 1% or probably less or the unicorn companies, as you say, in America, like if you ask people, ‘Name some companies,” they’ll have a few that they can name in the same way as authors.
But that still means there are hundreds of thousands, millions, of small companies that no one’s ever heard of who are happily making a living.
So you can be a midlist entrepreneur, right?
Jarie: Exactly. It’s a great way to put it. This is the reason why I wrote the book as well.
So you can look at a lot of books about entrepreneurship and they’ll tell you all about how to grow and minimum viable product, and one metric that matters, and all the little external things, but not a lot of people write about the internal mindset.
The reason why I wanted to do this is because I was talking to a lot of entrepreneurs, a lot of young entrepreneurs, a lot of minority entrepreneurs, a lot of women entrepreneurs, and they’re really frustrated with either not having the mentorship or not really understanding like, ‘What does it take inside my soul? What is in here that really makes a difference?’
There’s a lot of people that are very “successful,” that are mid-level or they have their little deli business or they’re like the garbage man that are going to make a life for themselves. And as an entrepreneur, what you really want to do is build this independent life that completes you.
And completing you may not be the million, billion-dollar exit, it may just be, ‘I’m my own boss. I can do what I want to do. I can take a nap at 3:00 in the afternoon. I can do these things that are important to me.’ So, yeah, you can be lots of different levels of success.
Joanna: I certainly agree with you there. You talked about some of the stresses, and issues, and challenges, and the mindset, and one of the phrases you have in the book is, ‘Trough of sorrow,’ which I really like.
Can you talk about the ‘Trough of sorrow’ as it applies to authors?
Jarie: I’m sure all of us have been in the trough of sorrow when we’re trying to figure out how to make a story that works.
This was actually coined by Paul Graham, and he was the founder of something called ‘Y Combinator.’ And ‘Y Combinator’ is one of the premier accelerators in Silicon Valley; lots of people go through it and there’s been lots of unicorns out of it.
Essentially, he came up with this graph on technology adoption and how things come about in the world. And this is a very kind of common theme among innovation. Any kind of innovation follows this sort of hype curve. And the trough of sorrow is literally where technologies go to die.
This is the place where if you were to have the analogy of ‘Walking through the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil,’ this is this walking through the valley of the shadow of death. This is the place where you’re either going to gain momentum and gain product market fit or it’s just going to die on the vine.
For authors, you can imagine you’ve got your draft done, you’re trying to figure out if it works, you’re trying to get either get an agent or get people to read it, and there’s various other places where this trough shows up. Like, you release your book and nothing happens.
It’s a really, really tough place to be and entrepreneurs know this in their soul. And the reason is, is because we understand.
And all entrepreneurs when they’ve done this a lot, they understand that a lot of this is luck. A lot of it is market timing, a lot of it’s just like being at the right place at the right time, it’s working hard. So for us, it’s shots on goal. ‘Oh, that one didn’t work, we’ll do another one.’
We’re wrapped up in the process and we’re wrapped up in the product to a certain degree, but we know the odds are really, really slim that whatever we make is gonna ‘make it.’ And for us, obviously as entrepreneurs in like the tech space, making it is billion dollar company exit or what have you. So we are very intimate with the trough of sorrow. We don’t like to go through it.
Thankfully, since all of us have been through it before and typically when you build a company, there’s more people around you, we share the burden. And I think that’s one of the things that, you know, as authors, it’s really hard to have a community of people that you can be like, “Yeah, it’s okay. I know it’s not selling well, or I know it’s not working.” You can kind of commiserate.
We all remember that 1% make it. That means, that’s 100 companies or if you’re an author, that’s 100 books. Do you have 100 books in you to write? Maybe not, but we’ve got to be up for that challenge. That’s why I always say that it’s this journey.
For me it’s been challenging for this because I’ve done six companies, I have been doing this for over 20 years. I’ve also written six books. And it’s the ego inside you that you’re like, “How come this isn’t working? What am I doing wrong? Why is Joe over across the street successful and I’m not?” And that is a hard thing to swallow. And sometimes it’s, you know what? Joe got lucky.
Joanna: I agree, or Joe wrote a best selling genre or something. Back on the mindset issues, that’s what I call comparisonitis; I’m comparing myself to somebody else. And the imposter syndrome, even if you do get some kind of success, do I deserve it anyway?
How do we deal with those things?
Jarie: This is something I struggle with daily. I don’t think there’s a day that doesn’t go by that I’m not like, you know, “How come my book isn’t number one in ethics when it’s about ethics.” It’s source is in the word. Or ‘How come I didn’t land the huge VC deal?’
All those things that you’re just like, ‘Gosh, this is such a hard thing.’ And so for me, what I really tell myself every day is like, ‘Why am I doing this?” Like, really internally? It’s not for the fame or fortune or praise. That is all fleeting. I could be the most wildly successful entrepreneur one day, do the exit, and then it’s like, ‘Okay, now what? What am I going to do now?’
You may have all this fame and fortune, but is that really fulfilling you? Can you really sleep at night knowing what you did to have to get there? Is it worth the risk? Is it worth the suffering? Is it worth the sacrifice to all these things?
For me, the thing I always know, because I talk to a lot of entrepreneurs, everyone’s in the same boat. Even if you’re wildly successful, you still have the same problems. You’re still running up against the, ‘Can my business fail tomorrow? Can I hire enough people? Can I get enough money?’
It doesn’t matter what level you’re at. The problems are the same. But as you ascend up, those get more complicated and there’s a higher stakes. So for me, it’s really a question of, ‘Yes, I would love nothing more than to have my book be number one. Why is ‘Servant Leadership Bootcamp’ number one and I’m not.’
Joanna: It’s got the word bootcamp in.
Jarie: It’s got the word bootcamp in it, right? So I’m like, ‘Okay, all right, calm down. Take a deep breath. Step back.’
We can all relate. We all know that person, you’re like, ‘How are they so successful?’ And then I think and I go, ‘Okay, let me turn that around.’
I had the honor and privilege of writing a book that I think is good, it’s my art, it’s my contribution to the world. I’ve put it out in the world. And after I’ve put it in the world, it’s up to the world. I have no control over that. Just like I put a product in the market, I can work, work, work, work, but if no one’s doing blockchain anymore, which now blockchain is completely not passe anymore, when is it going to matter?
I can’t be the Uber of blockchain anymore because nobody cares. So it seems a bit weird and a bit meta, meta, meta, and kumbaya, and again, I mean, I’m trying every day to live this way and every day is a struggle.
I read a friend, I’m like, ‘Gosh, darn it, why that person?’ But then I realize, you know what? I’m actually really lucky. I’m lucky to have the community I’m in. I’m lucky to be part of the Story Grid universe.. I’m lucky that I could publish books. I’m lucky that I have the discipline to write it.
If someone says, ‘How many books did you sell?’ I’m like, ‘Well, how many books have you sold or have you written anything?’ And I get that sometimes all the time, like, ‘Is it worth it?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, writing is worth it.”
Writing is worth it because I’m the only one that reads it because that is my expression of my gift. What’s my gift? My gift is telling these stories. My gift is giving of myself to the community for which I’m in. It’s the highest honor you can give. If someone reads it, if someone pats me on the back, if someone gets on my blog and says, ‘Great post,’ that’s all upside, that’s gravy, that’s all I can give.
Joanna: Coming back on a more emotional side because this book does have a more emotional side for you and a personal meaning that goes way beyond book sales.
Would you mind talking a bit about that as well?
Jarie: ‘The Entrepreneur Ethos’ was a book that I was writing when my late wife Jane had leukemia. And she was an entrepreneur in the PR space and she would always complain to me about how, ‘You’re a tall white guy, everything’s easy for you.’ Whe was a female Asian. So, ‘It’s hard for us five-foot-two Asian women.”
She had obviously awesome traits that she did with her business. I was thinking about, ‘I’ve got to write another book, I want to write another book.’ And she’s like, ‘Well, you should really discuss how hard it is for minority and women entrepreneurs to get in the game, but more importantly, this internal mindset.’
I was at an accelerator called ‘500 Startups,’ my company at the time, Lab Sensors Solutions, we are going through all the growth hacking and all the stuff that they teach us. And we were some of the older people in the batch, that they call it.
We would be just getting all these questions. “Hey, how do you do this? How do you do that? You guys seem like you have your act together. What is it about you…?: Again, there is someone out there that you may be envious of them, well, they’re probably envious of you in some way.
And that’s another way to think about it, ‘You mean, there’s actually someone out there that thinks that wow, like that, I’m on this pedestal?’
But we started talking to all these young entrepreneurs and it started to turn out that more and more, it wasn’t about how to define your minimum viable product. It wasn’t out on how to growth hack Facebook, it wasn’t how to grow your email list. It wasn’t how to go to market strategy or get product market fit or all that sort of stuff, that was all done before.
What people wanted to know was, ‘How do you get through the tough times? How do you fire someone? If you have a fight with your founder, how do you deal with that? How do you balance your work in life? Is there a work-life balance? Should I be working 80 hours a week on my startup? What kind of hustle do I have to have? What’s the difference between being assertive, aggressive, and an asshole?’
Those were the hard questions. I started interviewing a bunch of entrepreneurs that I knew and came to this conclusion that really, as a community, we didn’t have an ethos. Our ethos was more externally focused, raise money, become a unicorn, exit, repeat.
There was no question about ‘How do we be a better community? How do we be more inclusive? How do we invite minorities and women to participate more?’
If you’re a woman entrepreneur, you get 1% to 2% of all venture money. If you’re a woman minority entrepreneur, you get 1% of the 2%. It’s just ridiculous. This isn’t a job that one is race, gender, creed, nationality, sexual orientation. Anyone can do this job. It’s been proven time and time again.
But it was looking more and more like this old boys club, tall white guys, and even tall white rich guys, even people from the Ivy’s there was really no access. There was really no talk of that. So I decided, ‘Okay, well, you’re either part of the problem or part of the solution. Live your truth. So step up, and here you go.’
Joanna: That’s fantastic. I know your wife didn’t get to see the book done, but it’s great that you did that.
Now, I did want to get deeper into the ethics side because, in recent months, well, not just in recent months, over the years already. I don’t know if you remember the sock puppets, the fake reviews from a few years ago, authors setting themselves up as other names. We’ve had plagiarism scandals happen recently, copy paste stuff, you mentioned like the hacking.
We’ve had black hat stuff happening with Amazon. So there are ethical issues even in the author community, which let’s face it, is nothing as big as the big entrepreneur. So how do we do better? And the thing is, the people listening are ethical people as are we.
We know we are unlikely to have scammers listening, but what can we do to bring up the level of integrity within the community?
Jarie: It starts with standards that everyone agrees to and it starts with a written down set of things we believe. And in every professional community throughout history has had these sort of things, lawyers have it, doctors have it, engineers have it, warriors have it.
It’s a universal thing that when a group of people get together that have the similar craft, that it is in their best interest to make sure that the community is held to a high standard. It just is because what happens is, if it’s not, then the rest of the outside world will not trust the community.
For entrepreneurs as an example, it’s an honor to do this. We literally get told, “Go invent stuff, go figure stuff out. We know that it’s going to be hard. So we’re going to give you a pass on some things. We’re going to give you a pass on maybe some regulations. We’re going to give you a pass on maybe your attitude. We’re going to give you a pass that you are little quirky and you can’t talk to people at cocktail parties and all you talk about is your business. We’re going to give you a pass on some of that.”
But then there are some things that society should not give us a pass on, like discrimination, like sexual harassment, like unethical behavior where that trust that’s put in us gets squandered.
And so as an author community, we’ve even talked about this in the ‘Story Grid’ community because there’s a lot of unethical editors out there too. Every group is going to have their fair share of a-holes and d-bags that are like, ‘Oh, God, do we really have to have him part of the tribe? Can we just shove them out on an ice flow somewhere and just go off into the sunset’.
No one wants to own them because it’s tough. What’s important is that a community have standards that everyone agrees to and that the community polices it because that’s the only way you’re gonna get from an ethical kind of framework to an ethos type of framework.
So for me, ethics are the minimum bar. They’re kind of like letter of the law, you know, ‘Well, it’s not illegal, so I did it anyway.’ Okay, well, there’s some things that are still legal but not ethical or even moral or even have aspire to a higher ethos. And so for me, an ethos is the top. Like, I want to be like the best of the best.
So a community has certain people that are the best of the best, whether writer, ethical, share. There’s a lot of people, like Steven Pressfield comes to mind as one of the people that I look up to. And so how do you prescribe that? Well, you do it like every other group does. You put forth a set of criteria, maybe one to two-page ethos or mantra or a Manifesto.
I don’t like the word manifesto, it implies certain things. But you put forth like, ‘Hey, if you want to be part of the community, what do you think we value?’ And that’s what I did. I actually asked entrepreneurs, ‘What do you value? What do you think this community is all about? How do we build a more resilient, ethical, and inclusive environment? How do we do this?’
That’s how we came up with the ethos. Maybe Joanna, we figure out how to do that for authors. I’m game, write some questions down and let’s get this done.
Joanna: I would say the alliance of independent authors does have an ethical author …let’s not call it manifesto, but it has a list of, these are the things that I believe and I do. So for example, I don’t fake my reviews, that type of thing. So I’ll link to that in the show notes, which is fantastic.
Since you mentioned the ‘Story Grid’, why don’t you tell people why you’re involved in the ‘Story Grid’ and why you do the podcast because that seems quite different to your entrepreneurial self.
Jarie: Tthe original ‘Story Grid’ seminar, which was in New York I think in 2016, I forget, I think it’s 2017. My late wife, Jane, bought me as sort of a birthday present. It was in February, my birthday is in February.
I had always been interested in structure of story of I’m an engineer, so I love quantitative, objective measures of things. And I was also wanted to level up my craft and be a better writer. And I was always running into these like real subjective ways to evaluate writing.
I’d go to like a creative writing class, and I write mostly nonfiction, there’s some fiction stuff I write. But I mean, I would always get this eclectic, vague feedback on, ‘I just don’t really feel it, man’. I’m sure we’ve all heard that.
It would frustrate me because, look, I know that with practice, you can get better. You can get better at anything with practice. Now, clearly, you have to have some talent. And maybe you don’t have a lot of talent in some things. I’m never going to be professional baseball player or basketball player no matter how much I train, but I can still enjoy the sport and I can always get better.
So I was looking for a way to get better. And I found the ‘Story Grid’. In fact, Mark McGuinnes, our mutual friend sent me an email and he says, ‘Did you see what these guys are doing?’
He says like, ‘Look, how come we don’t know about this podcast?’ And like, Oh my gosh, wow, revelation. So I went there and then they had another training in that same year, I think it was September, October, got certified as a sort of ‘Story Grid’ editor.
Then that study group that we had became the roundtable. So the ‘Story Grid Roundtable’ podcast is the five of us that were study partners. It’s interesting because people always say, ‘Oh, do you take editing clients? Do you edit for a living?’ And I’m like, ‘Well, no. I write stories for a living.’
As an entrepreneur, as a PR and marketing person, as someone that needs to convince people of my cool thing, the best way to do that is to tell a better story than the next person. And how do you tell better stories? You learn about story structure, you’ll learn what works, you’ll learn what doesn’t work. You apply that framework to your own writing and your own stories. And you practice, practice, practice, until it flows like water.
So anytime I go to a college or a group of entrepreneurs, and I typically will teach them about how to tell better stories, and how to do more narrative to describe what they do to investors and customers. Every time, I bring a level or like what they call like a superpower to it because no one thinks of it the way I think that because I’m studying story structure.
Not to say that there’s not other people that do that, but boy, it’s just helped me tremendously be able to look at a company or a client or a product, and boil it down to, ‘Well, what’s the story that’s going to work with this? How are we going to convince people?’
Joanna: I think authors forget that telling stories as part of marketing is the whole point.
Jarie: Marketing. No one likes marketing.
Joanna: No, but it is interesting.
Jarie: The M word.
Joanna: You should probably tell Shawn to write Story Grid for business or something, it would be huge. Like, McKee’s.
Jarie: Oh, you’re taking my idea. So if that ever happens, I will give you credit.
Joanna: Yes, McKee did ‘Storynomics.’ And I went to that seminar, which was full of CEOs. And as much as I like Robert McKee, I think the ‘Story Grid’ for business would be better.
Jarie: So you heard it here first. If Shawn and I ever do that, we will give Joanna full credit of that full ethos thing and it will be, “Thanks to Joanna for inspiring this awesome idea.”
Joanna: I want to shift now to disruption because you’re in Silicon Valley with a lot of these entrepreneurs. Disruption is the name of the game. It’s just disruption, disruption, right? As soon as people get comfortable, something happens, it’s disrupted.
Now, back in 2013, Jeff Bezos said in an interview that Amazon would be disrupted. And what’s happening now in the American politics is, there’s a lot of talk about breaking up tech, about surveillance capitalism, which could potentially talk of breaking up Amazon, for example, ‘If you own the store, you can’t play in the store,’ is something I heard from Elizabeth Warren, one of your politicians.
What do you think about this? How could Amazon be disrupted?
Jarie: It’s already being disrupted. Amazon every day is getting disrupted and every day is losing ground because they’re not as agile and nimble as they used to be. This is a really insightful question.
I’m glad you brought it up because this is a huge topic in the U.S. and I think around the world, especially when it comes to technology and automation; self-driving cars, and all those things are going to literally disrupt millions and millions of people.
They did some analysis, I don’t remember the name of the blog person that did it, but the hypothesis was, ‘Amazon’s killing retail. Everyone that’s in retail is dead.’ And they did a graph, and they’d looked at Walmart, Target, Jet, Costco, and all these other things, and they’re like, ‘Oh, they’re growing just like Amazon’s growing. In fact, some of them are growing faster. Why is that?’
And then you’re like, ‘Why is Amazon going into brick and mortar? If retail is, “dead”, why on earth would the biggest online retailer on the planet, maybe, you know, Alibaba is maybe a close second or first, go into brick and mortar retail?’ The worst business model.
It’s kind of like Elon Musk saying, ‘Yeah, I’m going to build an electric car.’ Stupidest idea ever because it is the dumbest idea ever, until you build Tesla, right? So what’s really happening in terms of like an Amazon disruption, in fact, they’re being disrupted in their web services side too with like Google, IBM, and Microsoft all have this Cloud-based on-demand, compute farms.
What happens in Silicon Valley and why disruption occurs is when the big juggernauts get lazy and compliant, and they don’t serve their customers well, someone else sees a gap and says, ‘I’m going to go super-serve them and then I’m going to crush them.’
You see this, now, the edges of it in something called ‘Retail 3.0′. And Retail 3.0 is all about on-demand, on-premises and online. So I don’t know, they have Target in the UK, right?
Joanna: We have a similar type of retailer.
Jarie: Okay. I’ll give you an example. Target in the U.S., you can go online and buy something, you can then go pick it up, or you can have it delivered, or you can go into the store. So now, it’s the ultimate inconvenience for me as a consumer. I can shop around if I want, but sometimes people are just like, you know, “I just need this now.”
That’s the reason why Amazon’s doing brick and mortar. They realize that there is a gap in their offering, where if Jarie needs a bottle of water, I’m going to go to the local store, I’m not going to get Amazon to ship that to me.
Home Depot here in the U.S., Costco, jet.com, Walmart, all realize that this Retail 3.0 thing is starting to take over. And that means there’s a lot of places for disruption.
And then there’s some things that like Amazon will never do well. There’s going to be some things where there is a component of service that has to be personal or local. If you’re buying eyeglasses or you have a pool or spa, that’s another thing where you need someone like if your pool is screwed up, you’re not just going to call someone on the phone, you want the guy to come out. And there’s a whole ecosystem around that.
Amazon will get disrupted. It’s already being disrupted. It usually happens at the fringe. And it usually happens when they’re not super-serving a specific customer and that customer gets angry, and looks for something else. That’s the reason Amazon crushed it in books.
Joanna: I think these big changes are interesting, but for authors particularly, I’m interested in the disruption. For example, Google here in Europe has just been fined a record $1.2 billion or something for advertising their own products first, for putting their own search stuff first, which is exactly what Amazon is now doing with their books.
When you look for a book, APub, Amazon Publishing or Kindle KP Select books will be favored in some way, what it looks like, we don’t know that. But when there’s big fines like that, when the talk of, can you be a publisher and own a bookstore and own the ads.
Do you think those are the things that authors who are listening care about more? Where’s the disruption there potentially?
Jarie: When it comes to a marketplace, and this has happened over time, all companies that get big and greedy want to take more and more of the pie. It’s natural.
There was a retailer here in the U.S. called Sears and Roebuck, and anyone that’s my age will remember Sears and Roebuck. It was the Amazon of its day in the 1800s or early 19th century, had the catalog and all this great stuff.
And then they went from the catalog, they went to the store and then the store had this stuff, and they did insurance, and then they did all these sorts of things. Now they’re bankrupt. The reason why they’re bankrupt and the reason why that sort of model breaks down over time is that people get angry.
I know you talk a lot about being independent and spreading around all of your assets and I actually was listening to one of your podcast and I’m like, “I’ve got to write that down. I should be a little more independent and spread my assets around.” Because I’m mostly on Amazon, just to be honest, one, because it’s convenient, and two, that’s kind of until I started looking into this, that’s all I knew.
So as an author, the real important thing is, is that you need to control your intellectual property and you need to be able to spread that as wide as you can.
And there will be services that will pop up because they’re already popping up, where Amazon is not going to be the main distribution channel for long simply because it’s too restrictive. When you are trying to control a marketplace and give your own things an advantage where you’re like, ‘Okay, let’s let the best thing win,’ over time, people are like, they get mad.
And then enough people get mad, they’re like, ‘Well, we’ll just create our own thing.’ And people do that.
Podcasting is the best example of this. Even though there’s Stitcher and Apple podcasts, and all these other things, anyone can produce a great podcast, put it out in the world and try to gain people’s interest.
Now, the ultimate is someone you gain interest and someone gives you a way to directly communicate with them, like their email. You don’t even get who your customers are sometimes on Amazon. You sell a book through Amazon, you don’t know that I bought your book, you have no idea. That’s bad for you as an independent business.
I want to know my customers intimately. I want to be able to say, ‘Hey, Joanna, thank you so much for buying my awesome book. I really appreciate it. You know what? If you tell 10 five friends I will give you this great little thing that only you have.’
Now we have a relationship and even formula, retail types want to do that. Once this starts to get so onerous and people that are independent, like Shawn and Steve, they have black Irish books.
Why did they have black Irish books? Because traditional publishing, they didn’t like the model. How come the Story Grid stuff existed? How come Tim Grahl, who you’ve had on your show, the way he does book launch marketing and book launching and stuff in his book, you know, ‘Running Down a Dream’? This is all the new reality, like, yeah, like,
Amazon, for example, is an important distribution channel. Is it the only important distribution channel? No. Will it over time? Will there be other ones that will pop up? Oh, yeah absolutely because people are mad at them. And then when you get pissed off, people are like, ‘Let’s build something’. And then you get, was it Kovo or Kobo up in Canada or whatever it is, like, people are like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’
Joanna: I think the surveillance capitalism and if people haven’t heard that term, it’s really being talked about a lot now, that’s what has made more people more angry and kind of moving into buying from different places.
It’s interesting because I got the Kindle as soon as I could back in 2010 or whenever it was when the international Kindle, and it was the first one I could even buy, so they got me on day one. But it’s interesting because since Amazon moved to the advertising model, I can’t find books like I used to be able to find books. So as a reader, I am mad.
And it’s so crazy the first time in, well, ever, I now go on Apple Books because they are serving me books that I want to read, which is fascinating because I’ve not behaved like that as a reader before, so I think you’re right.
For people listening, whatever you’re mad about, that’s probably what will be disrupted.
Jarie: Absolutely. Look at you, three and a half million people have listened to your podcast, you’ve sold all these books, right? You again, admitted first one with the Kindle, super excited, and then over time, they kind of wear on you, right? They’re like, ‘This doesn’t seem fair.’
Because most people are like, ‘I want a fair and just society or marketplace where the best thing wins.’ And over time that happens. And then sometimes we get totalitarianism. So more and more control. And then people are like, ‘No, no, this isn’t going to work. We need more and more freedom.’ And then it sort of ebbs and flows, and ebbs and flows, and that’s where disruption happens.
I’ll give you the best example that I can think of right now. Google owns Search, Bling and all those other ones are just, Yahoo is all good. People are mad at Google because they track you, they serve you ads, they know everything about you. So there’s this new search engine that’s new as a couple of years ago called DuckDuckGo. So you’ve heard of it?
Joanna: We use it. Brave is the other one.
Jarie: Yeah. So it’s a search engine, how hard can it be? You’re going against Google, you’re going to get crushed. Well, no.
Why? People are angry that Google tracks them, DuckDuckGo doesn’t. There’s a disruption. There’s a new feature function, and now a whole new group of people are like, ‘My privacy is important to me. Therefore, I am going to forego the more convenient, better results at times, Google Search, and I’m going to search on DuckDuckGo because I’m going to put my capitalism, my time and effort to something I believe in.’
That’s what authors need to do. Yes, building your author platform is super hard. Yes, the marketing part is yucky. You finish the book, you’re half done, you need to now like tell people. But if you get into communities and if, like you said, you’re here to make some ethical choices eventually people will find you.
Eventually, the people that are constraining that and trying to optimize for their own benefit, and not really letting the marketplace sort it out, they’ll go the way of Sears and Roebuck. It just happens constantly. If the only constant is change, I know that again, that’s cliche, but I’ve seen it so many times, and that’s just accelerating. So lots of opportunities, even if you feel a little frustrated now.
Joanna: As ever, I’m a glass-half-full person and I think there’s amazing opportunities, but things will keep changing. As you say, they have in the 10 years I’ve been in the independent community. We could talk about this all day, but we’ve run out of time.
Tell people where they can find you and your books, and everything you do online.
Jarie: So you can find my books on Amazon, of course, because that’s where they all are.
Joanna: And soon to be wide.
Jarie: And soon to be wide. I’ve got to study your last couple of podcasts. I’m on Amazon. I blog on thedailymba.com, which is my tips, tools, and techniques for entrepreneurs.
I co-host a podcast called the ‘Story Grid Editor Roundtable’ podcast with Valerie Francis, Anne Hawley, Kim Kessler, and Leslie Watts, who are some of the smartest people I know on story.
Everyone says, ‘If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.’ Well, I am literally in the right room on ‘Roundtable’ podcast. So it’s been such a great joy to be with them and like, learn what they learn, and really, that has just been a kind of mind-expanding experience.
And as an entrepreneur, sometimes we get kind of down in the weeds on our product and all the fancy dancy stuff and we’re crushing it or whatever. And just to step back and look at the creative side and figure out how to tell my story better.
I’m writing a memoir right now about my life with Jane, and I would never been able to do that without the ‘Story Grid’ and the support of the community and authors like you; listening to how you do things and how your mindset and Mark McGuinnes as well. He’s just been a mentor to me for almost 10 years, so it’s been a long time.
I know even Shawn Coyne and Steven Pressfield, and Tim Grahl, and all those people that have been really giving, and I just hope to give as much as I get.
Joanna: Fantastic. Well, thanks so much for your time, Jarie. That was great.
Jarie: I appreciate it. Thank you.